Hydra V-Ray Version II review?

December 31, 2008


I’ve enjoyed reading your Shunyata reviews over the years, including those of the Hydra, various power cords, and the V-Ray. I recently became aware that there is now a Version II of the V-Ray, and I was wondering if you’ve had an opportunity to hear one yet, or if this may be reviewed sometime soon. I’m a little surprised that Version II comes so soon after the V-Ray was released, which I believe was not much more than one year ago, possibly a little longer.

I do enjoy reading SoundStage! and look forward to the new reviews each month.

Al Burk

I was supposed to have a V-Ray Version II by now, but delivery of the unit has been delayed. I will be writing about it at some point in the near future. I will be covering Shunyata Research's Aurora-IC interconnects and Aurora-SP speaker cables early in 2009, so stay tuned for that review....Marc Mickelson

"...an instant Audio Research fan"

December 29, 2008


I had been listening to music (two channel) for the last couple of years with my Denon ten-channel receiver. Recently, after having demo'ed them, I purchased an Audio Research LS26 preamp and Anthem Statement P2 amp. I am very happy with the resulting improvement in sound quality and have become an instant Audio Research fan. I read your articles on the ARC Reference 3 preamp. Do you think it is sonically very superior to the LS26? I am unable to demo it.

I am also considering upgrading my Denon DVD-3910 universal player, which I use for music also, to the Esoteric DV-60, or should I use separate players for music and video, like a product from Audio Research? What are your views on the Esoteric player for both music and video? I did read the article in Ultra Audio on the DV-60, but I would still like to hear it from you.

Like most of your readers, I eagerly wait every two weeks for your articles and spend many an hour reading from your archives. Love your site.

Ananth Desikacharlu

The Audio Research LS26 is a terrific preamp and in many ways the sonic equal of the Reference 3, which offers a little more bass heft and an overall fuller and more physical sound. Instead of upgrading to the Reference 3, I suggest you consider buying an Audio Research amplifier, which will give you more of the characteristic ARC sound. The Reference 110 or VS115 would be an ideal mate to your preamp and will drive most speakers very well.

I am not familiar with the Esoteric DV-60, though I did own the DV-50, the unit the DV-60 replaced, and it was a very good universal-audio and video source. Knowing Esoteric's reputation for improving its products, I'm sure the DV-60 is even better. If you buy one, you'll want to connect it to your LS26 balanced, as that's the way it will sound its best. Another option would be to buy one of the Oppo players for video and an Audio Research CD5 or Reference CD8 for CD playback. This is what I would do. Again, you'll want to use either of the ARC CD players balanced as well....Marc Mickelson

TW-Acustic or...?

December 23, 2008


I am not getting a major-league turntable for a while because I have decided that I want to try and go all out, so to speak. I am not the kind of guy who likes to get new stuff or upgrade every two years. I want something that is going to be with me for a long time. Because of that, I have decided that I would be willing to go as high as $10,000 for a complete turntable system. Below is a list of manufacturers whose products I have access to.

Basis Audio
Nottingham Analogue
Artemis Labs

Given that I want to try and be one and done, with the list above, would the TW-Acustic Raven One be tops? I will have to go to NYC to check it out though. I left out tonearms and cartridges because for those I would probably go through my local dealer. He sells Dynavector, so I could get the tonearm and cartridge from him. He could also try and get a Graham tonearm for me.

What do you think. For the money, is the Raven One king?

Mike Doukas

It's always smart to buy what you really want up front, even if it means waiting, instead of incrementally upgrading along the way. You'll save yourself a load of aggravation and money.

You have assembled a distinguished list of turntable makers. The two that stick out to my eye are TW-Acustic -- because I own and love the Raven AC -- and VPI -- whose HR-X is worthy of strong consideration as well. From what I've read about and heard from the Raven One, it's certainly cut from the same sonic cloth as its bigger brother and made to same high standards. VPI 'tables offer rare value for their prices, and the company's mid-level models often outperform other makers' top models and cost far less. The Super Scoutmaster would be worth your consideration along with the Raven One.

One last 'table to consider: the Artemis Labs SA-1, which I saw and heard at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. It looks to be very thoughtfully designed and made of unusual materials -- not just aluminum and acrylic. It's also worth seeking out in your price range....Marc Mickelson

Vincent integrated?

December 18, 2008


I just read your review of the Vincent CD-S6 CD player. As a hybrid, it combines the best of tubes and solid state. Judging by your reviewer's comments, it's a winner too. Vincent also uses this hybrid technology for some of its newer integrated amps. Most of the reviews for these products are from overseas publications;I haven't seen much in the US audio press. It would be nice to see a review of one of the matching integrated amps on your website.

Steve Anders

Vincent has changed US distribution since our CD-S6 review in 2006. I will contact the new distributor and see what we can arrange....Marc Mickelson

Which of the four?

December 16, 2008


I am in the position of purchasing one of four digital players. In the higher-priced category are the Ayre C-5xe and Esoteric X-03SE, or, for less money, the Ayre CX-7e or Esoteric DV-50S. I read your review of the Ayre C-5xe, and that player seemed on par with the Esoteric X-01, so I assume you would take it over the X-03SE.

I will run balanced into a BAT VK-51SE preamp, balanced to Levinson No.436 monoblocks, then to B&W Nautilus 802 speakers. I was hoping that one of the less expensive players would get me where I want to be, but I have not heard the Ayre CX-7e. In fact, I have only heard the DV-50S out of the four.

I greatly value PRaT and love bass with heft and impact. I listen to mostly metal, rock, and jazz, but I still do classical orchestra and string quartets.

Any advice? I am looking to purchase a player this week.

Bill Barotti

Because you are choosing from four rather different players, an audition in your system would be especially worthwhile. Among your choices, the Ayre C-5xe would be my choice. It's what I use here, and what other SoundStage! writers use as well. However, you might like the Esoteric X-03SE better given your preferences in music and sound -- the Esoteric players I've heard had very powerful bass, making them very good with rock. The Ayre player will pound out rock too, but it will handle jazz and classical equally well. Ayre will also support the player with future updates....Marc Mickelson

"...what happened to the traditional three-way floorstanding speaker"?

December 12, 2008

To Vade Forrester,

I recently read your review of the Cerwin-Vega CLS-215 speakers. I have often wondered what happened to the traditional three-way floorstanding speaker. Sure, they were ugly, but they sounded good and didn't require a separate subwoofer to produce real bass. I am not particularly knowledgeable about speakers, but I really enjoy listening to all kinds of music and frequently read A/V reviews. For years, I have been listening to music with a typical receiver and two three-way speakers with 12" subs. I recently acquired a Bose Acoustimass system, and after reading your review I realized something has been missing. The Bose system sounds good, but it lacks the midrange and bass that my old speakers delivered. I have hooked up my old speakers, and now I hear what I have been missing. After reading your review, I have been unable to find any other professional review of the Cerwin-Vega CLS-215s. It seems that everyone has forgotten that speakers are supposed to sound good. If, in order to sound good, a speaker must be ugly, so be it. Thank you for being willing to review ugly speakers!

If you have actually read this far, I have two questions. I would like to replace my old speakers, and my budget is $1000 maximum for a pair (I'm married, so cheaper would be good). It seems unlikely that I will get the traditional three-way-speaker sound from anything other than a traditional three-way speaker, but I am open to suggestions. What speakers would you suggest? I went to Cerwin-Vega's website and the CLS-12s appear to have the same midrange and tweeter as the CLS-215s. Have you had a chance to listen to the CLS-12s and do you know anything about them?

David Brown

The Cerwin-Vega speakers were a pleasant surprise, sounding quite decent at a very reasonable price. I'm not sure the tweeter and midrange are the same in the CLS-12, but they surely do look alike. The CLS-15 also uses the same midrange and tweeter. I haven't heard the last two speakers, but, as I said in the review, I'd want to hear the $399 each CLS-15s before I bought the CLS-215s. Ditto the $299 each CLS-12s.

I haven't auditioned any other speakers in this price range, so I can't provide any knowledgeable recommendations. You might want to check our GoodSound! sister site, which focuses on affordable gear....Vade Forrester

Synchrony One and measurements

December 11, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review of the PSB Synchrony One. I would like you to comment on something: The measurements for it seem to be much better than those for the more expensive speakers you review. One friend told me that measurements tell you nothing and I shouldn't look at them. But they must say something, right?

Chad Nicholson

You're right -- they do tell you something, so you can tell your friend that he's dead wrong. The reason he said that is more than likely because he doesn't understand them at all or, like you, he'd start asking some important questions.

About the Synchrony One -- it's not just a great-measuring speaker, but a great-sounding one as well. I think it will go down as one of designer Paul Barton's best-ever offerings. Furthermore, its measured and subjective performance absolutely crush those of some very expensive speakers that are out there. In other words, it's possible to pay more -- much more, even ten times more -- and not get as accurate a speaker as the Synchrony One.

How can that be? Frankly, you're not the only one who's asked me this, so I've have some time to think. I believe it comes down to four things:

  1. It's no secret that PSB is making its products in China. As such, the labor costs are much lower. If the speakers were built in North America, manufacturing would likely cost much, much more. So that's part of the reason.
  2. PSB enjoys economies of scale. In other words, they make and sell many more products than a boutique manufacturer does. And when you make more, the products cost less per unit to make. That's another thing.
  3. Although PSB speakers are made overseas, they're designed here in Canada using topflight test equipment. I visit Paul Barton regularly when he comes to work at Canada's NRC lab. The NRC is one of the best speaker-measuring labs in the world -- it's where we measure loudspeakers for SoundStage! It's also where Paul has been designing speakers for more than 30 years. The NRC's facilities are better than what 95% of the companies out there use, so that also helps Paul design speakers that measure so well.
  4. Last but not least, there's Paul Barton himself. He's one of the great speaker designers in the world and has produced more high-performing loudspeakers than almost anyone out there. Like I said, he's been doing this for over 30 years and has the wherewithal to design properly measuring, great-sounding speakers like few others can. Without him, I doubt the Synchrony One would be what it is.

In closing, the Synchrony One is a truly great speaker that I wholeheartedly endorse. If anything, the superb measurements should at least tell you that something special is going on and the speaker deserves to be auditioned. Don't miss out....Doug Schneider

Audio Note Kits DAC

December 10, 2008

To Colin Smith,

Very good review of Audio Note Kits DAC in this month's SoundStage!

I have been very interested in this DAC for the last year. I'm curious about how good it might be. I was looking at the DAC 2.1 Level B, but this is a notch up. I'm curious what associated equipment you used with the DAC.

My intentions were to use it with some Monarchy Audio SE-Deluxe 100 class-A solid-state monoblocks and a tube preamp in the hope that it's more "organic," "3-D" sound might combine nicely with the solid-state amplification (although these amps are considered to sound smooth already). Do you prefer it to the Benchmark because of this? Or do you think it mates best with only Audio Note tube amplification?

Jason Smith

The Audio Note Kits DAC 2.1 Level C worked very well in my all-solid-state reference system, which consists of a Simaudio Moon i5.3 integrated amp and a laptop as digital music source. My system is nothing like "dry"-sounding -- it is very neutral. In this system context the touch of warmth provided by the DAC Kit 2.1 was both quite noticeable and very pleasing to the ear. In your system, with its tube preamp, it's hard to know how much of the DAC Kit 2.1's tube character will come through, but you will very likely appreciate its excellent dynamics, detail retrieval and musical character. Though I haven't heard the latest Level C in an all-tube Audio Note system, I do have plenty of experience with earlier variants of the DAC kit coupled with Audio Note Kits' Kit 1 (300B) and Kit 2 (KT88) amplifiers. In both settings, the DAC was a stunner. As for whether I prefer it or the Benchmark, I have to go with the latter and its proprietary USB interface. When using a laptop as a digital source, the Benchmark is very tough to beat. But if I were comparing the DACs using a standard S/PDIF input, it would be a very tough call between the two....Colin Smith

Crossover for Apogees?

December 8, 2008


A close friend of mine owns a pair Apogee Grand speakers, and he wants to know if by any chance you know of any three-way crossovers on the market that will work properly with his speakers.

Ed Chan

In the past, Apogee owners often used the Bryston 10B crossover with their speakers. It's a two-way stereo crossover that can be used as a three-way mono crossover, so your friend would need to purchase a pair of them. While your friend's speakers are no longer made, Bryston has been making the 10B for over 20 years, and the company continues to make it today....Marc Mickelson

Home-theater question

December 5, 2008


What would you consider the best up-to-date home-theater receiver to drive Energy Veritas V2.4i, 2.0Ci and 2.0Ri speakers?

Steve Sawicki

I reviewed the Energy V2.4i speakers, so I'm familiar with that part of your home-theater speaker system. We measured the V2.4i's and found that their sensitivity was low, 87dB, so I would look for a receiver that's made by a company known for its beefy amplifiers. NAD comes quickly to mind, although I'm not sure if any of NAD's current models are "up-to-date" with the latest audio processing modes like Dolby TrueHD. If you want this, the Onkyo and Integra receivers have been very favorably reviewed by the writers on our Home Theater & Sound site, and they should have all the latest features....Marc Mickelson

VS115 with Artemis and Magnepan?

December 2, 2008

To Vade Forrester,

I just read your review of the Audio Research VS115. Will the VS115 match well sonically with an Artemis LA-1 preamp and will it drive Magnepan MG1.6 speakers?

Allan Lee

Having never tried either of the components you mention with the VS115, I can't definitively answer your question. The VS115 has unbalanced RCA inputs, so the LA-1 will work with it, but how they would sound together is something I'd need to try in order to make any pronouncement. The Artemis is a class preamp, so I'd guess it would sound pretty good with the VS115 -- but that's just a guess.

The VS115 can certainly drive the MG1.6es, but will they comfortably reach the volume levels you like? I'd need more info about your listening preferences and environment to give you a good answer. The MG1.6es are somewhat insensitive, so they will need a fair amount of power to work well. I used the VS115 to drive speakers that were even less sensitive than the MG1.6s, in a largish room, and I was satisfied with the volume level, but I don't listen to really loud music.

When our GoodSound! sister magazine reviewed the MG1.6 back in October 2005, the reviewer said:

I drove the MG1.6/QRs with a B&K ST-2140 power amp rated at 140Wpc. Maggies need a good deal of quality power -- think at least 100Wpc and you’ll be fine. Although the speaker’s nominal impedance is a lowish 4 ohms, it is essentially a resistive load (i.e., it varies little from its nominal rating), so it’s not particularly difficult to drive.

The reviewer's B&K 2140 was rated at 185 watts into 4 ohms, around 50% more than the VS115's 120 watts.

Here's what Magnepan says about power requirements:

Individual tastes vary so greatly that a definitive answer is impossible. The most reliable way to answer this question for your needs is by visiting a dealer. If you listen to your music at a normal volume, in a room that is approximately the same size as your room, with an amplifier similar to what you plan to use, an accurate power requirement can be determined for your listening habits. The amplifier used in this test should have a similar 4-ohm rating as the amplifier you plan to use at home, but it is not necessary for it to be identical.

I can't improve on that advice....Vade Forrester